These phones are usually labeled as “bilingual” (バイリンガル if you are looking for the katakana) on the catalog listing and clerks will be able to easily point out which phones can function in English. However, keep in mind that some advanced features may only be available in Japanese (including pre-loaded applications) and mobile internet portals are almost always Japanese only. Also, as a general rule, billing and billing websites are usually only available in Japanese.
If your first language isn’t English and you don’t feel totally comfortable in it or Japanese then you might be out of luck. However, the iPhone as well as some handsets utilizing Google’s Android operating system can utilize a multitude of languages.
As manufacturers can chose what features to use under Android, it is entirely possible that some smart phones lack multi-lingual capabilities (although in the authors experience most seem to have English and Japanese).
Softbank has offered a traditional phone with Korean input but that seems to be discontinued.
Our next and final article will cover Japanese "rent-a-phones" and roaming for those of your who are interested in a less complex, short-term solution to your communication woes.
Other posts in this series:
Part #1: The Basics
Part #2: Important Paperwork